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    Measles-Mumps-Rubella Shots Under Fire at Autism Hearing

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    Susanne Stoiber, the IOM's executive officer, said the reviewers only offered suggestions. They didn't change the report's basic conclusion. "To the best of our knowledge, aside from the fact that [the reviewers] may own mutual funds that hold pharmaceutical stocks, there is no reason to believe that there are any financial ties," she said.

    Nonetheless, Burton insisted on seeing the financial records of the vaccine committee members, as well as the reviewers. He vowed to use his subpoena power if necessary.

    Andrew Wakefield, MD, also testified at the hearing. The English scientist has his own theory about the relationship between the shot and autism. His studies of a small number of children suggest that a double-dose of the vaccine could lead to a low-level measles infection. He believes the measles virus could cause a leak from the bowel into the general system and ultimately the brain, causing a toxic reaction, in susceptible children, that could lead to autism.

    Wakefield says the IOM panel requested information on his observations in a closed session, but it didn't wind up in the final report. At the time, his latest studies were still being reviewed for scientific publication, so he couldn't present them in public. When asked at the hearing if the MMR vaccine is as safe as it can get, he responded, "No, absolutely, not."

    But Wakefield was contradicted by another English scientist, Elizabeth Miller, MD, head of that country's Public Health Laboratory Service. Her studies show there has not been an increase of such problems in the U.K. since the vaccine was introduced there.

    "I don't think it would be profitable to hijack the research agenda to concentrate on answering [Wakefield's] question, which is derived basically from speculation ... and ... unpublished evidence," she says.

    Burton raised additional concerns that some of the information clearing the vaccine in the IOM report came from Merck, the product's manufacturer.

    During the hearing, several physicians whose children have autism told the committee about their ordeal. One of them is Sharon Humiston, MD. A former immunization scientist for the U.S. government, she says she doesn't believe that the MMR vaccine was responsible for her son Quinn's disease. But she's desperately looking for answers, particularly to one heartbreaking question.

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